CHRIS KNIGHT M/CS

Need some tasty bits for your café racer? This Le­ices­ter­shire-based set-up spe­cialises in qual­ity stuff to trick up your Tri­ton and make you look the part

Classic Bike (UK) - - CONTENTS - WORDS: MICK DUCKWORTH. PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: TIM KEETON

Qual­ity wares and tasty de­lights at the Le­ices­ter­shire spe­cial­ist

Ilike qual­ity – things have to feel right and de­tails make all the dif­fer­ence,” says Anne Knight. It’s an ad­mirable state­ment of in­tent from the wo­man who founded Chris Knight Mo­tor­cy­cles in 2000, a year af­ter her hus­band Chris died sud­denly from a heart con­di­tion when he was only 51.

“He was a pas­sion­ate mo­tor­cy­clist,” she says. “He used to build en­gines and gear­boxes for peo­ple and was into spe­cials like Tri­tons and Rob North Tri­dents.” Once she re­cov­ered from the shock, Anne de­cided to leave her job in sales and mar­ket­ing to move into the world Chris had in­hab­ited. She set up as a stock­ist of clas­sic Nor­ton and Tri­umph parts, spe­cial­is­ing in Meri­den’s post-1970 oil-in-frame twins. Sell­ing mainly by mail order, she also spends many week­ends away from her Le­ices­ter­shire base at shows and au­to­jum­bles.

“In re­cent years, the em­pha­sis has changed,” Anne ex­plains. “I can’t com­pete with ebay and China, so I am now con­cen­trat­ing on high-qual­ity café racer parts.” She trawled au­to­jum­bles for pe­riod Ed­die Dow, Dun­stall, Gus Kuhn, Ian Kennedy and John Tickle af­ter­mar­ket equip­ment and cleared a lead­ing whole­saler’s stock of Tom­maselli con­trols. She also tracked down sources for newly-man­u­fac­tured parts, fo­cus­ing on prod­ucts that she could see were in de­mand for build­ing or re­fur­bish­ing clas­sic Tri­tons. That is presently the core of her busi­ness, with qual­ity to the fore. Anne says she has de­clined some of­fers to make parts for her on this ba­sis. Chris Knight had been a friend of Dave De­gens and Anne has since formed a busi­ness li­ai­son with the Tri­ton­build­ing le­gend of Dresda Au­tos.

“That was for­tu­nate as I have been able to in­clude the Dresda range of prod­ucts and I can order sets of engine plates or Dresda swingarms from Dave,” Anne says. “He can help cus­tomers with the in­ter­nal parts, which I don’t claim to deal with.”

While Anne has plans to di­ver­sify, the present fo­cus is on Tri­tons which can in­volve sev­eral per­mu­ta­tions of frames, en­gines and gear­boxes. This can be baf­fling for any­one new to Tri­ton lore, but Anne is grate­ful that most of her cus­tomers are knowl­edge­able, or do some re­search be­fore or­der­ing.

“I don’t call any­thing ‘univer­sal’,” she says. “Like shoes, it will ei­ther fit or it won’t and I don’t like re­turns – they are ex­pen­sive.” Both Wide­line and post1959 Slim­line Featherbed frames are catered for. Al­loy fuel and oil tanks are made for her by spe­cial­ists and she aims to of­fer an off-the-shelf ser­vice rather than build­ing up wait­ing lists. How­ever, while she stocks the ‘short cir­cuit’ (ap­prox­i­mately 3½-gal­lon) Nor­ton Manx-style fuel tank (£695 plus postage), the less in-de­mand deeper five-gal­lon type is made to order. Twin taps are fit­ted, pro­vid­ing a prac­ti­cal re­serve un­like the Manx sin­gle tap, while flip-up Monza caps are set to the right side, for fill­ing while on the prop­stand.

While Anne is able to main­tain a stock of Wide­line al­loy cen­tral oil tanks, the Slim­line tank (with its much more elab­o­rate shape) is not al­ways read­ily avail­able. She has some sec­ond­hand glass­fi­bre oil tanks which are re­silient, if not as classy as al­loy. Sea­soned Tri­ton­ists will tell you how engine vi­bra­tion can split al­loy com­po­nents if they are not rub­ber-mounted. Anne

‘THE PRESENT FO­CUS IS ON TRI­TONS, BUT ANNE PLANS TO DI­VER­SIFY’

only sells stain­less steel bat­tery trays be­cause she has found that al­loy items are not up to the job.

Racer-style seats are made with or with­out the front cut­away for ac­cess to a cen­tral oil-tank filler cap. Clipon han­dle­bars are avail­able new and Anne also has some pe­riod items, in­clud­ing a pair of John Tickle bars she found in their box and wrapped in 1972 news­pa­per. A swan-neck type caters for rid­ers who don’t want to af­fect an ex­treme rac­ing pos­ture: “It’s an age thing,” says Anne, who is aware that many of her cus­tomers are 50-plus. Rearset footrest kits fea­ture machined bil­let alu­minium, as do finned ex­haust clamp­ing rings, as she thinks the cast type of­ten look ugly.

Nor­ton Manx-in­spired con­i­cal rear hubs from BSA and Tri­umph twins of 1971-1974 vin­tage are pop­u­lar with Tri­ton builders, so Anne has them re­fur­bished with ei­ther a pol­ished al­loy fin­ish or the matt-black used on mag­ne­sium Manx items. With finned al­loy brake­cool­ing rings and air vents added for a racier look, both types are £690. The gauze pro­tect­ing the vents is au­then­ti­cally ‘mush­roomed’ with a con­vex shape. Mak­ing Manx-style mudguards in strong Du­ra­lu­min like the orig­i­nals (£135 a pair) and front guard Y-brack­ets with com­pound curves formed on spe­cial tool­ing are ex­am­ples of choos­ing qual­ity over cheap­ness. Strong safety-crit­i­cal brake torque arms can be sup­plied for Nor­ton forks to mate with Suzuki or Grimeca dou­ble twin-lead­ing-shoe drums. Nearly ev­ery­thing is UK made and Anne never claims to of­fer the low­est prices.

“A lot of my stuff goes abroad, to Amer­ica, Japan, Aus­tralia or Scan­di­navia and as I speak French I am on friendly terms with the Tri­ton Club of France,” Anne says. “But I find that Brits tend to want their stuff shiny and cheap. I’d be richer if I sold lower qual­ity stuff; it’s eas­ier to get and the mar­gins are bet­ter. Did you know that you can get brand new ‘John Tickle’ parts that are made in the Far East? If we don’t use skills in this coun­try, we’ll lose them.” Anne wants to at­tract new cus­tomers, which is why she is now mov­ing into new ven­tures to cater for a fresh gen­er­a­tion of café rac­ers.

“Tri­tons are go­ing up in value, cre­at­ing a price bar­rier for younger rid­ers, so I am look­ing at more af­ford­able op­tions like the Hinckley Bon­neville and BMW K100. For a start, I have Monza tank caps for Hinckley bikes and will be do­ing seats. I have to move with the times.” chris-knight-mcs.co.uk (add VAT to quoted prices)

‘TRI­TONS ARE GO­ING UP IN VALUE, SO I AM LOOK­ING AT MORE AF­FORD­ABLE OP­TIONS LIKE HINCKLEY BONNIES AND BMW K100S’

ABOVE: Along with other sup­pli­ers, Anne has struck up a busi­ness link with Dresda’s Dave De­gens

Manx-style mudguards are made in strong Du­ra­lu­min

Re­fur­bished con­i­cal hubs come in black or chrome

Ev­ery­day ne­ces­si­ties like gas­kets are also stocked

Shapes and colours... Anne can sup­ply seats in a wide va­ri­ety of them

Yokes, brake torque arms, head­light brack­ets, you name it – and all top qual­ity

Anne’s rearset kits and ex­haust clamp rings come in machined bil­let alu­minium

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